What kind of Jesus do you believe in?
Published by Anonymous on Monday, 19 August 2019 10:24
Sermon 18 Aug 19 Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 12:49-56 What kind of Jesus do you believe in?
I would like you to consider how you picture Jesus! Our understanding of him can be complicated and complex depending on what you were taught at Sunday School, what Christian books you have read, whose daily Bible Notes you read, as well as what we preach from the pulpit and elsewhere. What does Jesus “look like” to us?
I hope you were given a sheet of images as you came into church this morning - (see image below sermon) Images of Christ. As a child, I was brought up on rather Victorian images of him either with a sheep around his neck, or surrounded by children, butterflies and baby deer. On your sheet Some of these images might be quite disturbing for you.
I want you to spend a couple of minutes looking at these images – which one do you find attracts you the most, which one repels you. And if you feel you can once you have made your decision perhaps chat with someone near you and share your choices. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, that’s ok. But we will have 3-4 minutes for you to consider these questions.
Our gospel reading today might be showing us a different kind of Jesus to the one we are used to, or the one we feel more comfortable with. The passage from Luke doesn’t show us “Gentle Jesus meek and mild”. He says Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? NO I tell you but division. Is this the same Jesus whose image you see on the bottom row of your page? I think it is more like those on the top row isn’t it.
Jesus was a radical. He came to challenge authorities, to challenge the laws they had made concerning their religion, he came to fight injustice, to support the downtrodden, the outcast. To disturb consciences. To bring division. Remember how he turned the tables in the Temple outer courts because he was angry at the way the merchants and money changers brought disrepute to God’s house. He healed on the Sabbath He challenged the people time and time again. Some would say How dare he? Or does he have every right to do this?
A while ago I was watching a new Christian DVD that had just come out. Its called God’s not Dead 2. It tells the story about a young teacher in a High School in USA who dares to mention Jesus in a history lesson and she is suspended from the school and is taken to court. One of the minor characters in the film is a young Chinese student at the local university who is questioning the college chaplain about God and the Bible – he is thirsty for knowledge and through his questionning he commits his life to Christ. His Father comes to visit him, and is very angry with his son for being a Christian and demands that the son gives up his new found faith, his course at college, and goes back to China to his family there. The son refuses and says that he wishes to stay and study more about the Bible. Then says his Father, you will have nothing more to do with your family. Your Mother, sister and I will disown you, we will never speak to you again. We will cut you off.
How tragic, and yet in real life this happens time and time again. For some Christians following Jesus does mean division in the family. Not just the odd row or snide comment, but cutting yourself off completely. The young man in the film was prepared to put his love of God above losing his family’s approval. What would you do if put in that situation? How strong is your love of Christ? Enough to leave your family?
Moving back to our passage, In v 49 we read Jesus says I have come to bring fire on the earth. Another thought provoking statement.
Fire is a widespread religious symbol, with a variety of associations. A fire provides light and warmth but it can also burn and destroy. Which characteristic of fire is Jesus using here do you think? Is he suggesting a symbol of judgement or of purification? Or Is Luke referring to the work of the Holy Spirit? He says in Luke 3:16 He (that is Christ) will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And Luke also says that tongues of fire rested on each of the disciples at Pentecost when they were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
This year we have seen quite a few wild fires up on the Dales, when miles and miles of moorland have been burnt, and afterwards we wonder if anything will ever grow there again. But sometimes fire is needed in order to clear out the old or dead plants so that new ones can grow. The plants need the rich soil left after the fire, and at other times some plants need the fire in order to release their seeds. In Canada there is a tree called the Jack Pine, whose cones are very thick and hard. They are literally glued shut by resin so a cone can hang on a tree for many years without releasing its seed. But when a fire sweeps through the heat melts the resin and the cone opens up and the seeds can fall to the ground, so new growth can commence.
Perhaps the fire Jesus brings is one that lights up what is wrong in our lives. The things that are hidden in dark corners of our day to day lives, when we aren’t in church, when we think no-one is looking. What we are really like! Perhaps the fire Jesus brings is the fire of purification - fire to burn up the old in order that new can begin. What old things do you think might need burning up here among us today?
So What kind of Jesus do you believe in? Gentle Jesus meek and mild? Who smiles like the Grandpa in the Werthers toffee advert at everything going on in the world? Or is he the Christ who brings division, the Christ who challenges and opposes injustice in our world while at the same time can bring us compassion and love, wanting us to have renewal in our lives so that he can say Behold I make all things new.